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Outdoors & Recreation around Columbia

Much lip service is paid to the abundance and quality of natural resources in South Carolina. But it’s a well-earned reputation, and the Columbia area is definitely part of the equation. The Midlands boasts a wealth of ways in which residents can enjoy the outdoors, from the three area rivers to Lake Murray to Congaree National Park and beyond. Here’s a rundown of just some of the ways you can get outside and make the most of your summer.

Adventure Carolina

Cayce: 1107 State St., 803-796-4505,

Outfitter rents and sells boats and gear, and leads paddling trips on Columbia’s rivers.

Carolina Outdoor Adventures


Offers guided kayak trips on the Congaree, Lake Murray and others, including geocaching excursions and a Rocky Shoals Spider Lily paddle during lily season.

Columbia Rowing Club

Give rowing a try right here on the Broad River with help from this organization. Offers lessons, events and more.

Jordan Memorial Boat Ramp

Rosewood: 611 Rosewood Dr., 803-741-7272,

This public boat ramp is located at the west end of Rosewood Drive, offering access to fishing and boating on the Congaree.

Ladies of the Lower Saluda River

Offering whitewater clinics, tours and other fun in kayaks, this network of paddlers provides a welcoming community and top-notch instruction for women — but it’s not only for women.

Palmetto Outdoor Center

West Columbia: 131 Alexander Rd. (seasonal) and 731 Meeting St., 803-404-8254,

Guided paddling tours by folks who love their rivers. Offers tube rentals and a shuttle service from the West Columbia Riverwalk parking lot during warmer months.

Palmetto Paddlers

Are you a dabbler or a serious paddler? If you’re serious, you might want to check out this group. Organizes everything from clinics for novices to daylong treks and overnight trips.

Phoenix Adventures

West Columbia: 220 Orchard Hill Dr., 803-260-3669,

From day trips down the river to overnight or multi-day wilderness excursions, Phoenix Adventure wants to get you outdoors.

River Runner Outdoor Center

Vista: 905 Gervais St., 803-771-0353,

Offers canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals and sales, as well as guided river trips.

Lake LifeLake Murray


Located about 20 miles northwest of downtown Columbia, Lake Murray is a 50,000-acre lake offering boating, fishing and other recreational activities. lists public access points, as well as marinas, boat rental companies, stand-up paddleboard providers, sailing clubs and landing spots — too numerous to list here. They’ll have a big fireworks show on July 1.

Dreher Island State Recreation Area

Prosperity: 3677 State Park Rd., exit 91 off I-26, 803-364-4152,

Accessed from the north side of Lake Murray, near Chapin, the Dreher Island recreation area consists of three islands encompassing 12 miles of shoreline. Especially popular for fishing and boating (Lake Murray is a top destination for striped and largemouth bass), Dreher Island also offers lakefront camping, cabin and villa rentals, water skiing and picnicking. Also a quiet, peaceful place for summer walks.

Greenways, Trails and ParksThree Rivers Greenway, 803-765-2200

A partnership between local governments, the River Alliance has spent years building segments of the Three Rivers Greenway, a linear park along the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers. Popular for walking, biking and jogging. A few sections of the pathway remain closed due to damage from the 2015 flood. Below are specific sections of the greenway.

Cayce Riverwalk

Cayce: Axtell Dr. and Naples Ave., 803-550-9520,

Of all the local governments that have built sections of the Three Rivers Greenway, Cayce has gone above and beyond, extending miles of trail south along the Congaree River, including the 12,000 Year History Park, a National Park Service partnership that highlights the area’s history from the Ice Age to the Civil War; and the Timmerman Trail, a wooded 3.5-mile stretch of pathway that connects to SCANA’s Cayce headquarters.

Granby Park

Olympia/Granby: Catawba St. west of Huger, 803-545-3100,

This 24-acre expanse on the Columbia side of the Congaree River includes a two-mile paved walking trail, picnic tables and more. Convenient to the historic mill village neighborhoods of Olympia and Granby, and USC’s baseball stadium.

Riverfront Park

Downtown: 312 Laurel St., 803-545-3100,

Part of the Three Rivers Greenway, the City of Columbia’s Riverfront Park is a popular trail and park encompassing 167 acres just west of Huger Street. A paved trail runs north along the historic Columbia Canal levee, between the canal and the Broad River. At the northernmost end, make sure to check out the “fish ladder” by which fish can traverse the canal’s diversion dam as they migrate upstream.

West Columbia Riverwalk Park and AmphitheaterWest Columbia: Meeting St. and Alexander Rd., 803-791-1880 x616,

This section of the Three Rivers Greenway — running along the west side of Congaree River and under the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges — offers some fantastic views and is a popular place for people to jog and walk dogs. Amenities include picnic tables, a riverside amphitheater and a canoe launch bay.

Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve

Cayce: Old State Rd. (south of Newman boat landing),

Part of the state Department of Natural Resources Managed Lands program, this 627-acre preserve features the 2.7-mile Guignard Clay Quarry Loop Trail.

Congaree National Park
Hopkins: 100 National Park Rd., 803-776-4396,

This 26,000-acre park boasts the largest old-growth floodplain forest on the continent — and you can view it from the park’s 2.4 miles of elevated boardwalk, among other trails. It’s also an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area and a National Natural Landmark. Activities include hiking, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, nature walks and more. Located near Hopkins, 20 miles southeast of Columbia (S.C. 48/ Bluff Rd., which is exit 5 off I-77).

Harbison State Forest

Harbison/Irmo: Broad River Rd. (off I-26 ext 101), 803-896-8890,

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never expect to find 2,177 acres of forest along the sprawling mess that is Broad River Road. But there it is — one of the largest public green spaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States. Features more than 16 miles of roads and trails (popular for mountain biking) and a canoe landing.

Palmetto Trail

Conceived in 1994 as a statewide series of linked trails — one of only 16 in the country — the Palmetto Trail, run by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, features 350 miles of completed paths thus far. Key local sections include a sandy trail at Fort Jackson and a converted railway bed between the towns of Peak and Prosperity.

Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve, 803-254-9046

Sadly, the geological wonder known as Peachtree Rock — a triangular-shaped top-heavy sandstone formation that had stood on its pointed base for millions of years — fell in December 2013, likely due to rain and years of vandalism. The good news? You can see the formation lying on its side, as well as hike through Little Peachtree Rock and the rest of this beautiful 460-acre preserve, which has the only waterfall in the coastal plain. Located off S.C. 6 in southern Lexington County near Swansea.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Downtown: 500 Wildlife Parkway, 803-779-8717,

In addition to animals and a botanic garden, Riverbanks features a zipline and Waterfall Junction, a three-acre outdoor play area for children, including tree houses, a 25-foot waterfall and a grassy meadow.

Saluda Shoals Park

Harbison/Irmo: 5605 Bush River Rd.,

803-731-5208, 803-213-2050 (weekend),

Situated on 270 acres downstream from the Lake Murray Dam, Saluda Shoals features a popular water park, a 5,000-square-foot river center, an environmental education center, canoe trips, nature hikes, biking trails, walking trails, fishing spots, picnic shelters, summer camps, health and wellness programs and meeting facilities. Seriously, Saluda Shoals offers a little bit of everything.

Sesquicentennial State Park

Northeast: 9564 Two Notch Rd., 803-788-2706,

This 1,419-acre park — which locals refer to as “Sesqui” — features a 30-acre lake surrounded by trails, picnic areas and campsites. Also offers boating, fishing, swimming, meeting facilities and trails. The park hosts walks, talks, children’s programs and more.

FishingS.C. Department of Natural Resources

Check agency website for essential information on hunting and fishing in South Carolina and purchasing licenses online. Offers educational workshops on hunting and fishing, some specifically for youths.

Frank’s Fly Arts, 803-673-0238

Michael Frank offers a world-class fly-fishing guide service for Columbia’s three rivers. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can fish for rainbow trout, striped bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass within a five-mile stretch of river. Pros and newbies alike are welcome.

**Courtesy of Free Times